A Research Framework for the Archaeology of Wales

East and Northeast Wales – Post Medieval

22/12/2003

 

 

Introduction

 

This paper covers archaeology in the historic counties of Brecknocks, Flint, Denbigh, Montgomery and Radnor for the period after 1600 and follows from the Stage 1 Resource Audit carried out by the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust.  It is felt that the combining of Post Medieval and Industrial is inappropriate, in terms of the wide range of monument types included (e.g. churches to nuclear power stations), the sheer volume (and potential volume) of sites to be covered and the different nature of the study of industrial archaeology (especially when a site is still functioning) and 'conventional' archaeology of the post-medieval period.  For the purposes of this assessment however the specified structure given has been retained.

 

I should like to acknowledge the contributions made by Judith Alfrey, Dr Stephen Briggs, Phil Copleston, Stephen Hughes, David Percival, Bob Silvester, Richard Suggett, Mark Walters and Elisabeth Whittle.

 

Summary

 

Existing knowledge: strengths

 

·         Remains from the post-medieval and industrial periods still largely exist on the ground. 

·         There are around 22,000 and 18,000 database entries in the SMR and NMRW respectively, for the area and period.

 

Existing knowledge: weaknesses

 

·         Compared to earlier periods, the number of records against survival of sites is considerably lower.

·         SMR, NMRW and Cadw data have inbuilt inconsistencies and biases and there is a simple lack of baseline data on many subjects.

·         The depth of information represented by the SMR/NMRW database entries is not known.

 

Research opportunities

 

·         One of the immediate priorities should be to address differences in data and to pool what is already known. 

·         Many more basic records need to be created to reflect the number and survival of sites, BUT we need to assess the depth of the present record.

·         Compared to other periods, much better written and graphic records are available for the post-medieval & industrial, e.g. OS maps, and there is justification for an organised programme of 'site extraction' from such sources.

·         The physical resource is disappearing rapidly, by demolition and 'conservation'; there is a need to record and research quickly what is left and use the results to inform higher standards of conservation.

 

1. Settlement, housing and storage

 

Existing knowledge: strengths

 

·         There is a wealth of readily available information contained in OS maps, especially the early 25in series, which provide useful evidence on the development of settlement patterns and the evolution of holdings.

 

·         There are partial studies of individual site types relating to settlement, notably: farm buildings (RCAHMW Radnor farmsteads); industrial housing in Newtown; studies of lower status settlements in the uplands (Uplands Initiative) and higher status settlements in the lowlands (Register of Historic Parks & Gardens and the RCAHMW gardens database); vernacular building studies such as Houses of the Welsh Countryside and Buildings of Wales for Clwyd and Powys.

 

Existing knowledge: weaknesses

 

·         Insufficient study of settlements in their wider contexts – although there is much listed building data in the SMR (probably more than in the other SMRs) it is available only as site or point data devoid of context.

 

·         Absence of detailed surveys of some site types, e.g. parks and gardens

 

·         The more recent the housing, the less we know about it, resulting in virtually no knowledge/records of 20th century housing (except from specialised collections in NMRW, such as PSA and North collections).

 

Research opportunities

 

·         There are numerous research opportunities in this wide-ranging theme. For example, Tir Gofal could be developed into a wider, continuing scheme whereby a closer interest is taken in monitoring all grants for land or building improvement by all the bodies concerned acting co-operatively.  This could have the aims of collecting and maintaining a more comprehensive record of both archaeological and environmental data to provide more informed advice on the preservation value of the resource and would include support for joint research projects necessary during the process.

 

 

2. Land use and enclosure (including transport and defence)

 

Existing knowledge: strengths

 

·         Land characterisation projects.

 

·         RCAHMW surveys of the Montgomeryshire Canal and Brecon Forest Tramroads.

 

 

·         Pontcysyllte aqueduct and associated canal are included on the tentative World Heritage Site list, reflecting the research into and importance of the sites.

 

·         RCAHMW/Ironbridge detailed study of Leighton Estate and model farms.

 

 

Existing knowledge: weaknesses

 

·         There is lack of joined-up' data gathering and interpretation, partly constrained by the shortcomings of text-based databases and partly by the need to gather data in manageable areas, themes or projects.  

 

Research opportunities:

 

·         There are many opportunities for field observation and for work on existing documents and records, either as projects in their own right or as components of related projects.

 

 

 

 

3. The use and exploitation of natural resources

  

Existing knowledge: strengths

 

 

 

 

 

 

Existing knowledge: weaknesses

 

·         Rural industries, particularly the small village industries and those on dispersed farmsteads or estates (e.g. tanning, smithing, woollen manufacture, agriculture, brewing, malting, brick making, clothing, boot making, &c.). Thematic surveys on any of these topics, but particularly the agricultural and woollen industries, are urgently needed to provide baseline data. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

·         Public utilities: water, gas and electricity installations – all very vulnerable.

 

Research opportunities

 

·         There is keen public interest in a narrow range of building and installation, particularly railways and defence sites. However, until recently, such enthusiasm had not been well converted into effective recording, conservation or preservation policies: local and national government do not usually see remains of industrial activity as 'archaeology'.  There is a clear need to raise the profile of all industrial archaeology with the public and authorities on the one hand, and for the heritage bodies to engage more closely with the numerous specialist societies on the other.

 

 

·         There is a need to quantify the amount of grey literature and archive material waiting to be accessed to the record and to encourage its early inclusion so that we have a more accurate picture of the breadth and depth of the information available.

 

·         Industrial plant continues to be altered, developed or demolished; from experience in south Wales and applicable perhaps only in the field of industrial archaeology is the need to carry out detailed process recording at those sites which are representative of their industry, despite the existence of  apparently reliable documentation.

 

4. Coastal archaeology (excluding maritime – discussed elsewhere)

 

Existing knowledge: strengths

 

 

Existing knowledge: weaknesses

 

·         Current site knowledge seems satisfactory, although general comments about the need for context could apply.

 

5. Environmental archaeology

 

Existing knowledge: strengths

 

·         RCAHMW's dendro-chronology programme. 

 

Existing knowledge: weaknesses

 

·         Many; see 'Research opportunities' below

 

Research opportunities

 

 

6. Religious or non-secular archaeology

 

Existing knowledge: strengths

 

·         RCAHMW chapels recording project (pan-Wales study of chapels and chapel architecture) which has created over1600 basic records and includes many enhanced records.

 

Existing knowledge: weaknesses

 

·         No organised study of post medieval churches, especially Victorian.

 

·         No organised study of graveyards.

 

Research opportunities:

 

·         Investigate plans holdings of Church Commissioners & Diocesan archives.

 

·         Enhance existing and expand database of all churches, especially Victorian sites – which largely still exist.

 

 

 

 

Paper prepared by Brian Malaws (RCAHMW)

 

 

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